Hello, fellow Hobbit fans! I come bearing a Thorin/OFC story. As Soul Healing was written before Desolation of Smaug and Battle of the Five Armies, it's a combination of book- and movie-verse, with more book-verse after An Unexpected Journey.
Though I have endeavored to remain true to canon with the characters' personalities (mostly), I've taken quite a few liberties with this story. First, there is a non-canon race that is featured heavily. I've woven this race into Middle-earth's history as seamlessly as I could, without changing the heart of Tolkien's work. Second, I took inspiration from Hungarian mythology and history for my invented race.
For height comparisons, I used WETA's chart (the link can be found on my profile, under Soul Healing's images). Talaitha is 4'6'', Bilbo is 4'2'', Kíli is 4'5'', and Thorin is 4'11'' (I rounded him up).
Character representations and pronunciation guides of the invented race's language (including audio) can also be found on my profile.
Disclaimer: I only own one character in this chapter.
Chapter 1: Uninvited Guests
The Shire, 2941
It was a warm, breezy afternoon when Talaitha exited the home of Ferumbras Took III, bidding the thain farewell. The medicine she had delivered would last the hobbits over a year, unless an epidemic struck. Many of the Shire's healers, however, were skilled enough to recognize and treat contagious illnesses before they could spread out of control. Talaitha had made sure of that.
As a healer, she had a responsibility to protect all living things, and her particular fondness for hobbits had prompted her to teach their healers remedies that were unknown in much of Middle-earth. The concoctions were oftentimes more effective against stubborn sicknesses than the conventional treatments. That was because, like the healer herself, the herbs and recipes were not of Middle-earth, but of a land boasting remarkable medicinal plants.
As she walked along the path from Tuckborough to Hobbiton, she smiled and waved at the passing hobbits. Though they were friendly creatures, they nevertheless kept a close eye on visitors. Their reasoning was that if a person visited the Shire, a long journey was almost always involved. And journeys had the potential for adventure, something hobbits viewed with distaste.
So when Talaitha had first appeared in the Shire, astride her black and white horse, the hobbits were understandably wary. But when she'd healed their sick, given them potent medicines, and taught their healers her remedies, they had welcomed her with wide smiles. And when she'd marveled at their comfortable homes and helped them prepare meals for their celebrations, they had accepted her as an honorary member of the Shirefolk.
Little hobbit children ran after her, begging for stories of her adventures. Talaitha glanced up at the sky. It was past midday, and she was meant to meet Bilbo soon. But she could not resist the children's earnest faces. Settling under a tree, surrounded by her audience, she smoothed out her purple skirt and began.
"Across the Great Sea, lay the faraway land of Nemere. In much of Nemere, it seemed to always be summer. Thus, the people of Middle-earth called it the Evergreen Plain, though in the language of those who lived there, Nemere meant 'meadows of the sun.' For the sun always seemed to be smiling down upon it, blessing it with warmth and plentiful crops.
"The people who lived in Nemere were called the szelemér, which means 'descendent,' because they were believed to be the descendents of the first elves. However, you may know the szelemér better as fairies. But they are not the fairies of your stories. Most do not fly-at least not with wings. Most are taller than hobbits though much smaller than elves. And each fairy is gifted with a particular skill. Some are great blacksmiths, while others can weave magical tales through their songs."
"And some are great earth-speakers!" exclaimed one of the children.
"Right you are," Talaitha replied, with a chuckle. She paused her story, looking at the eager faces that gazed back at her. Many of the children had heard this story before, yet still they listened, enraptured. She supposed it was because the szelemér were a rather secretive people that did not often venture into Middle-earth. That probably also accounted for the myths that they were tiny, winged, elf-like creatures.
Talaitha smirked at the image and continued her tale.
"One fairy was an especially gifted earth-speaker. His name was Kund Földes, which means 'Kund of the Earth', and he was so benevolent and powerful that all the animals in Nemere pledged their loyalty to him. Kund was unique for a szelemér. He was not content to remain in Nemere, so he journeyed across the sea to Middle-earth, accompanied by some of his favorite animals, on a great ship. Unfortunately, he came to Middle-earth just as Sauron was planning to conquer it. During his travels, Kund had forged deep friendships with many of the races in Middle-earth, and he chose to join their fight against the Dark Lord. He led an army of Middle-earth's and Nemere's fiercest creatures-bears, wolves, huge oliphaunts, giant eagles-against Sauron's forces and defeated multiple battalions of orcs and trolls."
The children cheered at Kund's victory, and Talaitha laughed. They had the same reaction every time she told that story, but she always delighted in it. Once the children had settled down, she picked up where she left off.
"After the battle against Sauron was won, Kund continued his adventures in Middle-earth. During one summer, he fell in love with a beautiful woman from Rohan, or at least from the place that is called Rohan today. Her name was Aeronwen, meaning 'white, fair, blessed.' And indeed she was blessed, for the line of Middle-earth's skin-changers began with her and Kund's offspring."
"But skin-changers are so tall, and the fairies are so small," remarked a child.
"Very true," replied Talaitha. "But over thousands of years, the children of Kund and Aeronwen's line grew taller, until they became the mighty skin-changers of today."
"What are the skin-changers like?" asked Primrose, one of Talaitha's favorite hobbit girls.
The healer smiled and stood. "That is a story for another day," she said. "I'm late to meet Bilbo, and you all know how much he dislikes tardiness."
The children giggled and followed her down the path to Bag End. She watched them chase each other through the grass, before knocking on Bilbo's green door. Had she looked at it more closely, she would have seen the strange mark etched upon it.
"If it's you again, Gandalf, I am not interested," Bilbo snapped from inside the hobbit hole.
She raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Uh, no, Bilbo, it's Talaitha?"
The hobbit opened the door and sighed. "Sorry," he said, inviting her in. "I had a visit from Gandalf the wizard this morning." As he took her cloak, he pointed an accusatory finger at her. "You're late."
Talaitha gave him a sheepish smile and unbuckled the belt from which her tarsoly-her medicine satchel-hung.
"I know, I'm sorry. The children wanted a story."
Bilbo nodded. If Talaitha was late, it was usually because she could not resist indulging the children with a tale. But he understood their insistence, for he, too, enjoyed her stories. And she certainly had many. Her travels across Middle-earth as a healer allowed her to meet the various races and to learn their cultures.
Remembering Gandalf's offer, he considered how wonderful it would be to see the elves, with their otherwordly grace, and the dwarves, with their monumental cities. But then he shook his head, dislodging the absurd notion from it. He was a hobbit, and a Baggins, no less. Respectable hobbits detested adventure.
Bilbo set out the chive biscuits he had baked that morning and some butter to go with their tea.
"Which story did you tell them this time?"
"The one about Kund," Talaitha replied. She bit into a biscuit, savoring the rich flavor. Though most hobbits were skilled cooks and bakers, Bilbo was especially gifted. "What did Gandalf want?"
Bilbo nearly groaned. He was hoping to never think about that meeting again. But Talaitha's question was innocent enough, and she and Gandalf were friends. So he remained polite.
"He spoke some nonsense about my going on an adventure."
Talaitha's eyes widened, her teacup forgotten in her hand. The hobbit sounded concerned as he asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," she replied, a bit too quickly. She attempted a reassuring smile that was not wholly successful. "I just wonder what that old man is up to."
And wonder she did, for a week ago, she had received a visit from Gandalf while in Bree. He hadn't spoken of an adventure, but his blue eyes had sparkled mischievously when she'd mentioned she would be in the Shire for a month. He, of course, knew that whenever she visited the hobbits, she stayed with Bilbo, so his meeting with her a week ago and with Bilbo today could not have been coincidence. The wizard was planning something.
Bilbo did not appear to be convinced, but he was more than happy to let the matter drop. He ate another biscuit and said, "Szélvész wandered into Brownfoot's garden and ate some of his carrots again."
Talaitha nearly choked on her tea. "Bilbo! You're supposed to make sure that doesn't happen."
The hobbit could barely contain his grin. "You know how that mare is," he replied off-handedly. "If she wants to go, she'll go." Talaitha was about to reprimand him again, but he cut her off. "Besides, no one actually likes Brownfoot. He's a frightful sort."
Talaitha chuckled. What Bilbo said was true, at least by hobbit standards. Brownfoot was unsociable, taciturn, and prone to glaring at her.
"Still, he doesn't need another reason to dislike me."
Bilbo shrugged. "He can't afford to dislike you. Your remedy healed his wife's twisted ankle in half the time."
She smiled and nibbled on her second buttered biscuit, reminiscing on the day she had met Bilbo. It had been during her second trip to the Shire seven years ago, right after he'd inherited Bag End. Some of the townspeople had already known of her, whether through her healing or her stories, but Bilbo had not. He'd wanted to meet the strange, copper-haired woman who traveled across Middle-earth with only her black and white horse for company. So when he saw her in the market on day, he'd boldly introduced himself, and they had been friends ever since.
While Bilbo cleared the table, she went into her room to change clothes. She exchanged the purple skirt; white blouse; and tan, embroidered bodice for a colorful blouse and ruffled skirt. Gaining the trust of her patients was crucial, and wearing the local fashions helped to secure that trust. At the end of the day, however, she always reverted back to the freer and silkier garments of her own people. .
Talaitha joined Bilbo in his den. They talked about next week's wedding, when Peony Hornblower would marry Alamac Brandybuck. They laughed that a member of the conservative Hornblower family would be living close to the Old Forest, which many hobbits believed to be home to dark and dangerous creatures. There were wolves, of course, but Talaitha had traveled through the woods many times and had yet to encounter anything sinister. Regardless, Peony would be quite safe, as the Brandybucks were one of the toughest families in the Shire. They had to be, living so near to the wilder lands.
After Talaitha recounted a story Ferumbras had told her earlier that day, she and Bilbo settled down to read as dusk approached.
Bilbo and Talaitha were preparing for a supper of roasted fish and potatoes, when the doorbell rang. She furrowed her eyebrows.
"Are you expecting someone else tonight?"
Bilbo's surprised expression was answer enough. He walked to the entry hall and opened the door. From the table, she heard the hobbit's confused voice, and then a dwarf entered the kitchen. As Talaitha's gaze swept over him, her green eyes widened. His bald head was generously tattooed, and his muscular frame towered over her.
"Evenin', lass," the dwarf greeted her, his voice deep and booming. "Dwalin, at your service."
She glanced uncertainly at the huge battle ax strapped to his back.
Dwalin sat down at the table and began to eat her and Bilbo's dinner. Glimpsing Bilbo's incredulous expression, she silently willed him to hold his tongue, until they could determine why the dwarf was there.
"Very good, this. Any more?" Dwalin asked, biting off the fish's head. Talaitha's stomach roiled.
"What? Oh, yes, yes," Bilbo replied and offered Dwalin the chive biscuits. "Help yourself." Talaitha stifled a grin when he sneaked two biscuits into his robe's pocket. Dwalin ate the remaining biscuits whole. "It's just that, um, I wasn't expecting company."
The doorbell chimed again.
"That'll be the door," the dwarf said helpfully. Talaitha remained with Dwalin, watching in combined awe and disgust as he barely chewed his food before swallowing it.
He had moved into the den and was fiddling with a jar of pastries, when a white-haired dwarf with a long beard entered the room. Bilbo mouthed his name to Talaitha, who was standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the den.
"Evening, Brother," Balin said.
Dwalin set down the jar. "By my beard, you are shorter and wider than last we met."
"Wider, not shorter," Balin replied crisply. "And sharp enough for both of us."
The brothers laughed, grasping each other's shoulders and slamming their heads together with such force that the sound echoed in the room. Talaitha winced and rubbed her forehead, as if she had felt the pain the dwarves had not.
"Uh, excuse me. I hate to interrupt, but the thing is, I'm not entirely sure you're in the right house," Bilbo said.
The hobbit and the woman followed the two dwarves into the kitchen, where Dwalin helped himself to a mug of ale.
"It's not that I don't like visitors. I like visitors as much as the next hobbit, but I do like to know them before they come...visiting," Bilbo tried again.
To Talaitha's surprise, the hobbit watched calmly as Dwalin tossed a wedge of blue cheese to the floor.
"The thing is, I don't know either of you," Bilbo continued. "Not in the slightest. I don't mean to be blunt, but I had to speak my mind. I'm sorry."
The dwarves had thus far ignored his protests, but now Balin turned to him and smiled.
The doorbell rang a third time. Bilbo moved to answer it, but Talaitha stopped him.
She opened the door to reveal two handsome, young dwarves. One was dark-haired and beardless, while the other had blond hair and a short beard that was fashioned into twin braids.
"Fíli," said the blond dwarf.
"And Kíli," greeted the dark one.
"At your service," they said in unison.
Kíli smiled. "You must be Mrs. Boggins."
Talaitha wanted to laugh at the absurdity of the situation, but for Bilbo's sake, she attempted to send the newcomers away.
"Sorry, you've come to the wrong house."
Kíli's booted foot prevented her from closing the door on them.
"What? Has it been cancelled?"
"No one told us," Fíli remarked, his blue eyes narrowing suspiciously.
"Cancelled? No, nothing's been cancelled," Talaitha replied. Then understanding dawned. This was Gandalf's doing!
Kíli grinned. "That's a relief."
The brothers brushed past Talaitha, handing her their weapons.
"It's nice, this place. Did you do it yourself?" Kíli asked.
"Er, no. It's been in the family for years," she replied. Talaitha set down Fíli's and Kíli's weapons and followed them into the house.
The dwarves were in the process of moving the dining table into the hallway, with Bilbo's protests falling on deaf ears. As if the hobbit's home wasn't crowded enough, the doorbell chimed a fourth time.
"Oh, no, there's nobody home! Go away and bother somebody else! There's far too many dwarves in my dining room as it is," Bilbo shouted, truly annoyed now. "If this is some clothead's idea of a joke, I can only say it is in very poor taste." He wrenched open the door, and eight dwarves tumbled inside.
The gray wizard peeked his head under the doorway. Bilbo sighed, realization dawning.